Community rallies in fight to save theft-hit south Leeds church from ruin

St John the Evangelist Church in Oulton.
St John the Evangelist Church in Oulton.
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A landmark south Leeds church, ravaged by lead thieves, is hoped to be brought back to life as part of a six-figure community project.

St John the Evangelist Church, in Oulton, has been closed since lead from its roof was stolen in November last year. The incident dislodged roof tiles and caused the 186-year-old church to flood.

The perpetrators were never caught and an insurance claim to repair the church was capped, failing to cover the full extent of the damage.

Its defiant congregation has been forced to move to All Saints Parish Hall, in Woodlesford, and has recently submitted a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for funds to repair the £200,000 of damage caused.

Rev Sarah Hancox, vicar for Oulton and Woodlesford, said: “Everyone was devastated when it happened but now we see it as an opportunity. If we get the funding, we can give it a new lease of life.”

A group called the Friends of St John’s was launched in May in a bid to help to save the church from ruin by putting together funding bids and raising awareness of its plight.

Churchgoer Katherine Hutt, from Woodlesford, has been helping to raise awareness of the project and set up social media pages to engage with locals. She said: “We want this to be a multifunctional hub for the community. It’s a beautiful building.”

Katherine said the entire project could cost as much as £500,000 to complete. The first step would be repairing the damage done by the theft.

The church is a gothic revival building that was built in 1829. It used to be able to host around 600 seated visitors but more recently had a 400 seated capacity.

The church, along with Oulton Hall and the Oulton Institute, will feature in and host displays as part of Heritage Open Days on Saturday from 2pm to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.

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